Lib Dem Voice have published the party's initial consultation document on the May 2011 election results and have invited members to submit thoughts on it to firstname.lastname@example.org or to attend the consultation session at conference on the Saturday morning to put in their thoughts.
The document contains two brief reviews of initial thoughts on each of the local election and the AV campaigns, and then a series of questions they would like answered.
Do access the document at LDV, e mail in your thoughts or go the consultation session - the more people involved, the better. Here is the response I've sent in...
Thanks for inviting feedback on the May 2011 election campaigns. I guess it's important to say first off how great it is that, as a party, we are willing to flag and debate issues publicly and are unafraid to show the world how and what we think. It is great to be part of a party that upholds it's own democratic principals.
Overall, I think the summary pages around the issues of why May 2011 went so badly wrong dwell too much on the faults of other parties. We can moan about, say, The Labour Party not supporting a manifesto pledge 'til we're blue in the face - but that doesn't change anything. We should concentrate our criticism and our analysis on areas we can control and improve upon, not on areas that we cannot.
(It's probably also worth saying that relying on how the Labour Party might be 'expected' to behave would be a mistake in itself. Labour lost the 2010 election and so were under no obligation to stick to any pledges made then - such as the AV vote).
Neither should we blame the losses on negative tactics by the other side. Blaming Labour for targeting Nick or the No campaign for spinning inaccuracies should come as neither a surprise nor be used as an excuse.
Physician, heal thyself.
Now, on to individual points.
There seems to be a confusion on the local elections section in terms of the effect of Lib Dems in government. I totally agree that our achievements in government since May 2010 have been very poorly communicated. However, lumping tuition fees in with NHS changes seems wrong headed. I would argue that in the case of tuition fees, we got the politics ( and the policy) wrong, long before any miscommunication got involved. On the NHS, I think we probably got some credit for independent thinking (led by the membership).
The greater problem - not alluded to in the paper at all - was that we failed to differentiate ourselves from the Tories. It's back to 'not a cigarette paper between us.' As a position, it gives natural Labour voters every reason to turn against us, and natural Tory voters no reason to switch to us. We end up with only our core vote. Which is of course, exactly what we got.
Strangely, when we campaigned on issues where we were differentiated - local issues - we did much better. Of course we did. We gave people a reason to choose us.
Finally, on the AV campaign, I agree that we appeared to be underfunded and somewhat disorganised.
My overall take out is that we need to be much better at defining clearly differentiated policy and philosophy from our political opponents, and then develop better central communication strands to make people understand, believe and agree with those ideas. We then need to be more nimble in the way we get those messages out.
Thanks for listening.
Twickenham and Richmond.